The best laptop docking station
Laptop docking stations allow you to use your laptop as the base unit for any number of electronic components. From multiple USB ports to SD card slots and beyond, a laptop docking station can help you connect just about anything you might need to your laptop quickly and easily.
The features, specs, and compatibility of laptop docking stations will vary from one model to the next, so it's important to consider what tasks you will perform regularly and what types of ports you need.
If you're ready to learn more about laptop docking stations, then read on. We've compiled this helpful buying guide and even included reviews of a few favorites for good measure. Our top pick, the Cable Matters Aluminum Thunderbolt 3 Dock, is a great choice for a dual-monitor setup.
Considerations when choosing laptop docking stations
Universal vs. model-specific
While universal laptop docking stations are designed to work with just about any model of laptop, model-specific versions are intended for use with a specific type or model of computer (Thinkpad, Surface Pro, etc.).
If you know what specific computer you plan to use, you may want a model-specific docking station because it can give you a more complete user experience for your computer. However, universal stations are quite good at adapting to whatever machine you use, so you can't really go wrong with either choice.
The majority of laptop docking stations incorporate anywhere from two to six USB ports. However, a few models offer even more than that and may include different types of ports. You should not only recognize the number of ports before buying but also the types of the ports. For example, if you need a VGA or Thunderbolt port, then check the docking station specs to make sure these are included.
There are two main power setups for laptop docking stations. The first is an individual power supply that feeds the docking station from a basic outlet. The other option is a USB cord that powers the dock from your laptop. Which type you choose depends on your needs as well as the available outlets in your workspace.
Some laptop docking stations offer high resolution video output, while others don't. If you plan to use your station for high-quality video editing, then you need to make sure that the station you choose has Ultra HD 4K resolution. This is an uncommon feature that you can expect to pay extra for.
Docking station design
You have a choice between either a vertical or horizontal docking station design.
Vertical stations are convenient because they don't take up a very large footprint in your workspace. Some people prefer a horizontal design for space reasons. There's no right answer here, but you may find that you prefer one style over the other.
With dual-monitor support, you can run two separate monitors from your laptop docking station. This is especially useful for those who work with large spreadsheets or photo and graphics editing software. The ability to convert a single laptop screen into two full-sized monitors gives you an added level of control over your workflow.
Most laptop docking stations cost between $100 and $300. Basic laptop docking stations for around $100 usually have at least two USB ports but lack additional features. For $150, you can find a docking station with more ports and a few added features, such as dual-monitor support. A $300 laptop docking station likely incorporates 4K video quality and six or more USB ports.
Q. Can all laptop docking stations run dual monitors?
A. No. Although plenty of models can run dual monitors, you need to look carefully for this feature. Make sure you check the specs of your chosen docking station if dual-monitor support is important to you.
Q. Will any laptop docking station work with my Apple laptop?
A. No. While many stations do work with Apple laptops, you need to make sure that you choose a compatible station if you want to use it with your Apple machine.
Q. Does a laptop docking station have the ability to charge my phone and other components?
A. It depends on which station you purchase. While some have the ability to charge your peripheral items, others may not. Check the manufacturer's specs for the details on charging capacity.
Laptop docking stations we recommend
Best of the best: Cable Matters' Aluminum Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Our take: A slim laptop docking station that gives you a wide array of options.
What we like: Has a small footprint and connects easily to both Apple and Windows-based computers.
What we dislike: The Thunderbolt 3 cable is short.
Best bang for your buck: Wavlink's Universal Docking Station
Our take: A great price for a dependable dock.
What we like: Has six USB ports. Compatible with Windows and Mac. Easy setup instructions.
What we dislike: No Ultra HD 4K support.
Choice 3: StarTech's Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Our take: A straightforward and durable option.
What we like: Dual-monitor support, high-speed capability, and high resolution for video editing.
What we dislike: Not as many peripheral ports as other models.
Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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